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Once Upon a Time - A review of Tokyo Disneyland's new nighttime spectacular
DisneyDan  Tuesday, June 3, 2014 6:55:30 AM
Hello everyone,

While we were in Japan last week, Jon and I got to see the premiere of Tokyo Disneyland's brand new nighttime castle projection show, Once Upon a Time.

The show uses the same technology as Disney Dreams! at Disneyland Paris, and follows Mrs Potts and Chip through some classic Disney stories. Unlike Disney Dreams! there are no fountains or water screens. There are also nowhere near as many pyrotechnic effects as Dreams.

Once Upon a Time

The show is currently being presented twice per night, which at time of writing is 8.50pm and 9.40pm. The show is visible from many places around Central Plaza and at the end of World Bazaar, however, there is a random lottery system in place for the best seats in the Central Viewing Area (that's its official name!).

Once Upon a Time

For anyone who hasn't been to Tokyo, the parks operate a ticketed system for their most popular shows, including One Man's Dream and Big Band Beat. The idea is that it prevents people from camping out all day in Central Plaza to get the best view. It means that those who are selected can wait until right before the show and take their seats with an excellent view.
This does of course present its own problems, with people waiting all day anyway in other areas to get the next best, non ticketed spots, often causing lots of crowding and congestion, which in Tokyo Disneyland is something that is a huge problem at the best of times.



For the first night we actually did win the lottery for the second showing, and so we decided to wait for the first show up at the end of World Bazaar, then head down to the entrance to the Central Viewing Area after, ready for the second show.
I can say with absolutely no doubt that it was the most insane scene I had ever seen. The number of people was mind boggling. The entire of Central Plaza and all the way down World Bazaar to the end of the street was wall to wall people. After the first show it took us around fifteen minutes to get from Refreshment Corner to just in front of the castle! 

Once Upon a Time

If you stand further away, you actually get a fairly good view. The music is played throughout World Bazaar, and even with the glass canopy the Castle is clearly visible. The only problem we found with standing at Refreshment Corner (and I know it would be just the same further back) is that the projections at the bottom of the Castle are lost, which actually, is a lot of them. For some reason much of the show takes place on the bottom half of the Castle, and while you can see the whole Castle from further back, the doorway is obstructed by the Partners statue and if you have anyone tall or holding up a camera, it can further obscure it.

Once Upon a Time

The following nights were no better with the crowds, and although we braved it one last time on our final night, in some ways I'm not sure it was worth the hassle.
Once Upon a Time is a good show, don't get me wrong, and I did like it, but having seen Disney Dreams! (on many, many occasions), Once Upon a Time does not compare. Disney outdid themselves with Dreams, and I don't think they'll be able to match it any time soon.

Once Upon a Time

I did enjoy it - I love the music - but I felt that there wasn't enough emotional attachment to it, and it simply didn't have the same impact. They tried to copy Dreams' finale, even down to using the Catherine wheels and flame throwers, but without Dreams' powerful score, projections right up until the last moment and the fountains, it loses something.
I want to point out though, that as well as loving the music the projections were really high quality. They were crystal clear, which is amazing given the uneven surface of the Castle. Disney did a really good job of the utilising the latest projection mapping technology.

Once Upon a Time

Although it is an enjoyable show, it's not worth the time commitment to get a good view, especially since people were waiting everyday for at least three hours for it! Having said all that, if you get the chance to go to Tokyo Disneyland and you win the lottery or crowds are light for some reason (unlikely), then definitely see it, as it is a good show - it's just that I couldn't help but compare it to Dreams, which will always be number one.
If you do want to stand and watch it, I would suggest skipping the first showing and holding back in the park somewhere, then heading to Central Plaza as people filter out, as many leave after the first show. There are still thousands of people in Central Plaza, but nowhere near as many as there are for the first. We did this on our last night and were surprised how much closer we could get than the first night (on Central Plaza itself, as opposed to squashed next to Refreshment Corner).

Once Upon a Time

I'll leave you with some more photos I took of those first two shows (I videoed the third one we watched).

Dan.

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time
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